Dear Max,
In the summers, we visited my parents and lived in the basement of their lovely country home on twenty-five acres. Even though you were timid, you came to like spending time outside on your harness and leash.
Although their house is back from the road, it’s a paved country road with an official speed limit of 80 kph and an unofficial limit of ‘¼ mile max speed’. We lost cats on that road when I was growing up, so you weren’t going to be heading outside by yourself.
You were a thin cat, and back then harnesses for cats were just a double loop of fabric. I remember the first time I put your red harness on. The red fabric looked so lovely on your jet black fur. And you fell over onto your side and would not move. Same every day for about the first week.
Once you decided to walk in your harness, it opened a new world for you. There were gardens to explore, grass to taste and trees to climb. You seemed to enjoy sitting out in the grass beside me while I read a book.
One summer evening, while I sat outside with you, the leash was suddenly slack. You’d slipped out of your harness and silently disappeared. We called and searched, we looked for you for hours. No sign of you that evening at all. I cried myself to sleep that night.
In the morning, you were on the doorstep, scratching to be let in when the first person was up. You came in and straight to our bedroom – bringing with you the pungent, unmistakable stench of skunk. Everyone was up in short order that morning.
We corralled you into the bathroom and I headed to the local vet clinic for a remedy. They sold me a skunk wash and we treated you with it. I learned that day how much you hated water. The hate was strong, but not quite as strong as the skunk smell.
You spent the next few days in our room, grooming yourself. Obsessively. Every spare moment was spent licking, slurping or wiping at yourself.
And then you stopped eating. And started vomiting.
I called the vet clinic and learned cats that aren’t eating need help right away. If we waited more than 24 hours or so, you could go into liver failure. Off we went to the clinic.
It seems that something you ingested off your own fur, maybe the oils from the skunk spray or the ingredients in the wash, had upset your stomach. We were lucky that quick treatment with some fluids and injections got you back on track for us.
After that, you were more content to stay near the house with someone. We probably didn’t even need the harness any more. You’d learned your lesson.
What did I learn from this?

  • Sometimes no matter what you do, you can’t keep them safe.
  • A problem that seems minor and easy to solve can get worse suddenly, so pay attention and ask for help early.
  • Curiosity can cause a lot of problems.